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November 2005

Saturday, November 5th:

Yippee!  New engine installed in motorhome, and it runs like a scalded dog.  Chris may write some to update on details of the last few days, but I'll mostly tell you about events of today, and the new engine in the MH.

Lots of Bad Luck -- But Mostly Comes Out Good

As you'll recall from reading last month (if you need to go back and read from the start click here) we had our motorhome engine rebuilt.  The Engine Lab of Tampa, owned by Dave and Susan Deegan, did a great job.  However, because of hurricane Wilma, some parts delivery issues, and unexpected problems, completion was delayed by a few days.  Dave was really great about it, keeping me informed all along.  On Friday it was done, and I went for a final test drive with Dave.  Everything went great, and we were very happy.  We left the RV parked there over night and were going to pick it up the next morning (today).

When we arrived this morning, Chris went inside to start putting everything away and I unloaded the car.  Chris yelled out; we have a mouse in the house!  It seems a mouse (or more?) came in while our RV was parked for repairs.  Several food items were partially eaten, and there were mouse droppings all inside the cabinets.  YUCK.  So we started cleaning everything up, washing the dishes, wiping off the canned goods, throwing away half eaten stuff, cleaning out, etc. (Since then I've also bought several traps.)

After cleaning up the mouse mess, we headed out for MacDill AFB FamCamp.  Within just a couple minutes I smelled wires burning and saw LOTS of smoke coming out of the dash! I pulled over and grabbed the fire extinguisher.  Luckily there was no fire, just a lot of smoke.  It was coming from behind the TV set, which is mounted in the center of the dash above the doghouse.  We were SO disappointed!  And the shop is closed until Monday.  So we decided we just needed to keep our cool and work on the problem.

Lucky for me I'm fairly handy with electrical wiring (former AF Avionics tech about 20 years ago).  I pulled out the TV and right away we saw the problem.  A wire bundle ran across the dash behind the TV.  One of the wires had burned completely through its insulation for about 2 feet. It got so hot that it melted several wires around it so they all stuck together.  Thank God it happened this way, instead of causing a fire!

I pulled the dash apart and followed the wire bundle to a connector, then on to the fuse box.  It was all the wiring for the dash AC and heater.  I disconnected the wiring bundle so it wouldn't burn any more, and we could start the MH and drive away, then I put the dash back together and we moved on down the road.

WOW, what a day! We still need to get the wiring harness replaced, and more importantly find the cause of the problem.  But I'm going to do without the dash AC for a few weeks.  I'm tired of the RV being in the shop.  We spent 14 nights in the hotel, "away from home" and we're very happy to be sleeping in our RV tonight.

She Runs Sweet!

I really like the way the motorhome is running, and Dave was really pleased with the results of their engine build too.  I've always been somewhat of a hot-rodder, and I couldn't see spending thousands of dollars and ending up with a stock engine.   So, we warmed up the engine a little bit.

Dave's shop does a lot of high performance work, and this influences everything they do.  They pay great attention to detail.  The regular long block rebuild included .030 over pistons, 3 angle valve job, a lot of precision machine work, etc.  I won't list all the details here.  In addition, I added a few items like a stronger cam, headers, balancing, etc.  Full details see the link below.  I'll also be adding a Flowmaster muffler in the next week or two.  Can't wait to drive it up the mountains out west next summer :-)  That'll be the ultimate test!

Photos of engine rebuild, click here.

Technical details, click here

Tuesday, November 8th:

Chris and I went down to the beach yesterday around 5:30pm to watch the sunset and see some wildlife, hoping to see one of our Spoonbills (we call them "ours") :-).   We didn't take the camera, so what happens?  A huge, beautiful Spoonbill flew directly over our heads.  It was a vibrant pink, and brightly lit by the low western sun.  What a sight!  (Note to self, always carry the camera!)

Today, Chris flew out to meet up with her dad in Texas and drive him to Mississippi for a medical appointment.  She'll be returning on Saturday.  He has cataracts and has been waiting about 6 months to have them removed.  Since they moved to Texas after Katrina, we hoped they could do the operation in the Houston VA, but we discovered the waiting list was about 8 months, and he's already waited long enough. 

Luckily the VA hospital in Biloxi, MS survived Katrina and is open for business, so he'll get the operation there.  This trip is just for the Pre-Op.  Then he'll have to get scheduled for the operation, which is supposed to happen within 30 days.  We tried to get them to give us a date now, for planning purposes, but no-can-do. 

Just a quick comment about the VA medical system.  In my opinion, individuals who work for the VA (doctors, nurses, techs, etc.) are generally caring, competent people who want to do a good job.  However, it's like any large government entity, slow moving, impersonal, often inflexible, and often inconvenient. 

If any veterans out there are thinking about trying to save money by relying on the VA for all of your healthcare needs I'd strongly recommend that you reconsider.  If you have a service connected disability, that's a different story.   And if the VA is your only alternative, then it's a blessing to have it.  But if you're just a regular veteran, and you can obtain normal private medical insurance, Medicare, etc. you should really do it.  You'll be glad in the long run. 

What are my plans for the next few days?  I'll be missing Chris, so, I'm going to working a lot on the business and try to make some money.  That should keep me occupied until she returns.  I'm also planning to install the motorhome's Flowmaster muffler on Wednesday, and do a tune-up and oil change on the Honda in the next few days.

Thursday, November 10th:

The new Flowmaster muffler arrived yesterday late, and I installed it today.  One snag had to be overcome (why can't it ever be simple?).  The custom exhaust shop that was going to make me a pipe had loaned out it's 3" expansion tool, so I had to go hunting.  Not many shops carry 3" pipe, so I had to drive about 50 minutes North, 2 hour round trip. 

Anyway, I got the muffler installed about sunset and cranked up the engine.  Sounds very good, a little loud but it shouldn't be noticeable inside with the windows closed.  I picked a 70 series muffler because it was narrower than the 50 series, and would fit better where the stock one was.  In addition it's supposed to be a little quieter than the 50.  Glad I got the 70, imagine the 50 would have been too loud.  All I need to do tomorrow is install one hanger to give it some support, and retighten the bolts on the collector. 

Tomorrow I'll get to check out the RV's performance.  I'm leaving for Biloxi MS to meet up with Chris and her dad.  The VA is going to do the cataract surgery next week, so it doesn't make much sense for them to travel back to TX and have to return.  Glad that gas prices are down!  I saw regular at $2.29 today. 

Saturday, November 12th:

Well, I've just had an eventful 2 days...

Good news:  Our Good Sam Continued Service Plan "CSP", otherwise known as an RV extended warranty, paid off on the burned valve!  They figured the burned valve and defective starter at about $1200 (a low figure, but at least they're paying).  We have $250 deductible, so they're sending me a check for $950.  Cool

Bad news:  Yesterday I headed out to meet Chris in Mississippi and everything was going great for about 2 hours.  Then, the RV "hiccupped" going up a hill and lost power.  That was about 4pm.  The Engine Lab was still open so I called David.  Lucky for me Saturday is a work day this week, so he told me to bring it in.  I drove 2 hours back to Tampa and stayed last night in their parking lot.  First thing this morning Greg talked to me about what happened and examined the RV.  He concluded that it might be a dirty fuel filter.  There's an inline canister filter under the frame towards the back. Greg pulled it off and dumped it into an oil pan.  Take a look:

Yep, that's a bunch of rust isn't it!  So we think we solved the problem. :-)  I'll check the filter in a week or so to ensure that we don't have a lot of junk in the tank.

After leaving the Engine Lab I drove up to Northdale and visited my Mom.  Then headed out north.  Right now I'm in Chiefland and the RV ran fine all the way here.  Of course, now I'm paranoid, so I'm hearing things every few seconds!

First check of gas mileage, 7.1 MPG.  I'm thinking this is a little low because of all the "testing" I've done on the throttle, not using the cruise control during break-in, some idling at the shop, lots of city driving, etc.  Will continue to monitor.  If we never see  8 MPG I guess I'll still be happy because of the added power.  I was hoping that increased efficiency would give us an increase in both power and mileage.  Driving in the South East I was previously getting about 7.4 MPG pulling the toad (no toad on this trip).

 

Monday, November 14th:

I'm in the Rainbow Plantation, an Escapee RV Club park in Summerdale, AL.  Stopping over for at least one night, washing a few bugs off the RV, etc.

In past years (before Katrina) we would pass through this area on the way to South Mississippi, and were so close to our destination that we didn't need to stop.  Now that Chris' parents are in Livingston, TX, and all the gulf coast casinos are gone we'll likely stop here more frequently. 

The RV ran great today.  There are some good hills in the Florida panhandle and the engine ate them up.  It seems the clogged fuel filter was the culprit.  I checked gas mileage today and it was 7.64.  Not bad.  I'll report back the averages at the end of each month as before.

Friday, November 18th:

 

Hi Everyone.  I thought I had updated the blog a couple of days ago but apparently it didn't save.  So I'll catch you up on events.  We're at the Keesler AFB FamCamp in Biloxi, MS and it's been cold here!  Down to 30 last night, but today it's 59 and sunny. 

 

Chris' dad had cataract surgery at the VA hospital yesterday.  The surgery was a success, but at his exam this morning they found a slight leakage, so they put a contact lens over the eye and told him to come back tomorrow. 

 

The FamCamp is close to the VA hospital, so it's very convenient for us.  We've been dry camping at $6.75 a day, which isn't too bad.  If Jack checks out good tomorrow we'll hit the road for Livingston, TX and take him home, then make tracks back to Tampa.  Our schedule is getting tighter by the day, but I think everything will work out.

 

Biloxi and the gulf coast are recovering from Katrina, but it's going to be a slow process.  Most businesses that are still standing are open.  Three casinos will reopen in Biloxi before the end of 2005, Imperial Palace, Isle of Capri and the Palace Casino.  Other casinos are saying it will take 6 months, a year, or longer to reopen.  The Beau Rivage plans it's reopening for August 29, 2006, the anniversary of Katrina.

 

Two good sources of information on the Mississippi gulf coast are the Sun Herald newspaper, and WLOX TV13

 

Changing the subject, you've heard us talk about the beautiful Roseate Spoonbills that we've seen in Tampa Bay?  I've never taken a photo of one nice enough to post, but Chris found this one online:

 

Used with permission

 

Now you can see why we rave about these birds.  The photographer is Matthew Whitley.  Chris found his web site yesterday and I've really enjoyed looking at his work.  You can too, his site is MKWphotography.com.  If you love nature photography, especially water birds, you'll be glad you visited him.

 

Monday, November 21st:

 

I just realized that Chris hasn't written anything for this month.  I'll have to nag her tomorrow ;-)  Really nothing big to report.  We're on our way back to Tampa, staying just West of Tallahassee tonight.  Looking forward to warm weather and not driving every day! 

 

If you're a long time reader of our blog, you know that we really hate to drive long distances.  For us, anything over about 150 miles in a day is just too far.  One big reason is the business.  We try to work some each day and it's hard to do when you're tired from driving 6 or 8 hours. 

 

We also want to enjoy places by stopping for a day or two and not just blowing through them.  Our ideal pace is to drive 50 to 150 miles, stop for 1 to 5 days (sometimes more) and then move again. 

 

It's also expensive to drive a lot.  I'd estimate it costs at least 30 cents a mile for gas and routine maintenance (not including major repairs).  So 30 cents a mile is $300 per thousand miles.  For the whole year, I believe we're averaging about 65 miles a day.  That's around $20 a day for gas, or about double our cost for camping! 

 

This reminds me to tell you about the RV's fuel economy.  The last two tanks were 8.06 and 8.09 MPG.  This is a lot closer to what I was hoping for!  If we can get close to 8 MPG pulling the toad that would be great!

 

Well, enough of my rambling for today.  Good night.

 

Thursday, November 24th:

 

Happy Thanksgiving!  Just a quick note to wish all our friends and family a happy holiday.  We have so many things to be thankful for, and we feel truly blessed. 

 

We thank God for our health, and the health of our family members...  for our new Grandson... for Chris' parents escape from Katrina... for living in a country where we enjoy freedom and opportunity... for each other, and our marriage of 22+ years... for our daughter's new home (can't wait to see it Tina!)... and for much much more. 

 

A couple of new photos of our grandson at this link.

 

Update from Chris

 

Iíve been pretty busy this month and havenít updated the blog so I thought Iíd do that this morning.  Mac has done a good job of updating the blog for the month so I donít have much to add, just a few thoughts on what has been going on.

 

Knowing that Iíd be flying out to Houston on the 8th I visited several of my favorite thrift stores here in Tampa looking for clothing to take to my parents.  Some people may frown on buying clothing at a thrift store but I donít.  Iíve found a lot of brand new items with the original price tag still attached and paid very little for them at a thrift store.  I feel I get more for my money there and itís for a good cause.  What woman doesnít enjoy finding a great bargain!  Also, in Livingston Texas there arenít many clothing stores so my parents arenít having a lot of luck finding clothing. 

 

So I managed to fill a suitcase with clothes for them before I left on the plane.  Iím very pleased with that.  Everything I bought for them fit, so now I that I know the sizes, styles and needs that they have Iíll continue looking for them some more clothes here in Tampa.

 

My dad and I left Texas in his car and headed to Biloxi on the 9th.  We stopped by their place on the way through.  As mentioned before my dad had been the camp host at a RV Park there.  When we arrived at the RV Park we saw that their travel trailer had been moved from their spot to the storage area, their storage shed was moved to beside the dumpsters to dispose of and was filled with garbage bags and their golf cart was gone, we think it was stolen.  The park was filled with trailers we assumed that they were FEMA trailers and contractors.  We continued on to our hotel room in Mobile Alabama.  That was the closest one that we could find. 

 

The 10th was dadís appointment at the VA for his pre-op exam.  It had gotten cold here overnight and we were wearing jackets.  When we arrived the paperwork was already there with his surgery scheduled on the 17th and where he needed to go on the 10th to have everything ready. 

 

Mac and I had already contacted the Biloxi VA regarding working with us about his surgery schedule since we all would be coming in from out-of-state, but it was a no go, all that she could tell us was that the surgery would be within a month of this appointment.  I was a little ticked when I saw that his surgery schedule was already made up for the 17th.  I felt like they could have worked with us ahead of time and we wouldnít have wasted money on flights and hotel rooms.  If we had known when his surgery was we could have planned accordingly.  Hindsight being 20/20 we think that if we had contacted the patient care advocate instead of the eye clinic we would have had better results with the planning.

 

So on the 10th my dad needed to go to the surgery department and answer all those pre-op questions and get surgery instructions, see the anesthesiologist and answer more questions, go get another EKG since his previous one had not had the results entered in the computer, go to the pharmacy for pre-op medication.  We also had lunch at the VA Canteen; it was good food and is reasonably priced.  They usually have 2 entrees and several vegetables to choose from for a lunch time price of $5.00 which includes a drink.  They call it a Caregiver Special.

 

After we got through at the VA we went to the bank and some other errands before heading back to our hotel in Mobile.  We had reservations for 2 nights.  After finding out the surgery was next week and talking it over with Mac I called the hotel and made a reservation for another night.  Mac was to meet us on Saturday. 

 

On Friday since the hotel was so booked up we couldnít keep the same room and had to check out of the room we had with double beds and accept the only thing they had left which was a room with one king bed.  We goofed off for several hours until our new room was ready and checked into it.  Then Mac calls and tells us he wonít be getting there on Saturday, heíll be having the RV looked at in Tampa with the newest problem!  If we had known that in advance we wouldnít have stayed the night and wasted our money.  We all discussed it and decided that my dad and I would drive back to Texas on Saturday and return to Biloxi on Tuesday or Wednesday when Mac would hopefully have the RV there.  At that time we didnít know what the problem was with the RV. 

 

So on Saturday morning my dad woke up earlier than usual and we were on the road, checked out of our room and fully gassed up before 5:30!  Why do older people get up so early!  We got back to Livingston in the early afternoon with no problems on the road.  We talked to Mac and found out what the problem had been with the RV and that it seems to be running great now.  Mac is slowly going to head to Biloxi and meet us there on Tuesday because on Wednesday the VA may need to do some more testing and we want to be there and rested in case they do call for dad to come in.

 

While in Biloxi on the 10th we had some time to kill while waiting for a testing appointment scheduled for late afternoon so after lunch we decided to drive around Biloxi and see how some of the houses we had lived in had fared from Katrina.  I donít know if anyone can describe the damage that was done in words so that people would understand how devastating it is.  Pictures really donít even do it justice. 

 

Every house where we had ever lived in Biloxi was either destroyed or damaged so much that it was hard to recognize that it was the house that we had lived in.  We saw so much devastation; whole blocks of houses destroyed.  Sometimes we werenít sure where we were at because all the landmarks were gone with just piles of rubble where once stood a business or house that we used as landmarks.  Itís amazing that some people chose to stay and ride out the hurricane instead of evacuating and that they survived!  We were just so sad from seeing all the damage.  They will rebuild but it wonít be the same.  We saw several places where tents were set up and being lived in while the people cleaned up the mess.  God bless them, I canít imagine living in a tent for that long especially in the heat that they had until recently.

 

After my dad and I got back to Texas I helped out with chores such as the laundry.  I also raked their yard.  I wanted the leaves out of the way so that they could see all the bumpy spots in the yard and not trip on them while walking around.  Iím concerned about the yard, itís not smooth and they could easily take a fall.  In the spring Mac and I will work on leveling out the yard for them. 

 

On Tuesday the 15th my dad and I headed back to Biloxi to meet up with Mac.  When we got to Mississippi we went by their place.  My dad wanted to see if he could get any fishing poles from the storage shed.  I wanted to look in their trailer and see if there was anything salvageable before the trailer was towed away and never seen by us again.  We got to the RV Park and discovered that their storage shed was gone with the garbage.  So we went to their trailer in the storage section of the park.  Someone had been in the trailer looting, pilfering, scrounging or whatever you might want to call it.  To me it was stealing!  When we had been to the trailer right after Katrina my mom was so upset that she didnít remember that there were valuable items in the trailer.  After we got to Texas she remembered but it was too late then to go get them.  So that was my main mission was to find my mommaís valuables and get them for her.  Someone had already found her jewelry boxes and her jewelry was scattered all over the bed.  Any item of value was gone, her wedding ring was gone along with some other real jewelry.  The only thing left was costume jewelry.  I dug around and found several pairs of earrings that were in decent condition and not destroyed by the effects of the storm.  I gathered up all that I could find along with some other items that I thought my mom would want. 

 

After we got through at the trailer we decided to head down towards the beach area of Pass Christian and see what had survived the storm.  Right after the hurricane people were not allowed down in these areas; not even the home owners.  The whole area still looks devastated.  There has been a lot of clean up but it still looks terrible.  Parts of Hwy 90 are open so we drove down it looking for the businessí they frequented and the nursing home that a friend had lived in.  We never found the nursing home, my dad could only guess its location because of all the destruction.  Thank God they had evacuated all the residents from it!  After a while we just could not stand it anymore and headed towards Mac and the RV.  God bless all the people there and all the volunteers who have helped out so much.  They have done a lot of work and there is still much to be done.

 

On Wednesday we received a call from the VA saying that dadís surgery would be at 8:00 in the morning and they didnít need him to come to the VA today for any testing.  So after 9:00 my dad and I headed out to run a few errands for him.  We went to see the insurance company about his claim; still hasnít received a check from the insurance company.  Itís in the works thatís all we found out, they should receive a check within a few weeks. 

 

I am very grateful that my parents had money in their savings account.  If they had not had that money to fall back on they would have been really bad off waiting around for the insurance company and FEMA.  Many people did not have any thing at all and itís a long slow process for them to get settled somewhere.  They have to depend on the government and charities to help them.  So, I am very grateful that this was not the case for my parents.  It was very hard for them even with money I canít imagine what it would be like to not even have had any money.

 

I saw on the news where the government and people are having ďKatrina FatigueĒ.  They are tired of helping.  I agree that there are people who are taking advantage of this to get all the freebies that they can get but that isnít the case with the majority of the people.  Most people are hard working and need only a helping hand to get them back on their feet.  But the media focuses on those few who wonít help themselves and so it looks like everyone is out to get what they can get; which is far from the truth.  At the other end of the spectrum there are people out there who havenít asked for help because they are too proud to accept any kind of charity. 

 

After Hurricane Wilma hit southern Florida there was the outcry that help was too slow getting to the people.  It took a few days to get water and food to them.  Iíve lived in Florida, and any Floridian can tell you that you should have a hurricane/emergency kit prepared.  Every year itís repeated over and over that you should have emergency supplies ready.  It should contain 2-3 days of water for everyone in the family, nonperishable food for several days, any medicines needed, etc.  Itís only common sense to keep emergency supplies on hand.  But yet there are people who donít do even this and then complain because help is too slow getting to them.  The help was not too slow itís that the people were unprepared. 

 

Too many people think it wonít happen to them and then when it does they wonít accept the responsibility for their own actions.  When we lived in Minnesota everyone had an emergency kit in their vehicle.  In the winter you canít blame anyone for being too slow to rescue you because you would be frozen to death waiting for help.  To survive until help could arrive you needed to have supplies in your car to keep you warm enough.  But Iíve digressed enough from the subject of what I did during the month of November.  Iíll get back on track now.

 

On Thursday, November 17 we took my dad to the VA and he had his cataract surgery.  He was done and ready to leave about 1:00 in the afternoon.  We all were hungry so we went to Wendyís and ate a late lunch.  Afterwards we went back to the RV so that my dad could rest.  On Friday I took my dad back over to the VA for his surgery check up and Mac packed up the RV to leave and head to Texas.  But the doctor wanted us to stay another day because there was a small leak in my dadís eye.  So the doctor put a contact lens in his eye and told us he would meet us at the eye clinic on Saturday.  So we went back to the RV and my dad continued to rest up and not stress the eye. 

 

On Saturday I took my dad back over to the VA to meet the doctor there.  Everything was OK now.  The eye had stopped leaking and the pressure was down in his eye.  So we could leave now and follow-up exams could be done in Houston Texas.  We thought it was so great that the doctor took the time to come in on his day off to see us.  We also found out that the doctor had lived in Metairie Louisiana, close to New Orleans, and lost his home too due to Katrina.  He was transferred to the Biloxi VA and his wife and baby live in Monroe Louisiana, the closest that they could find a room.  They only can be together on weekends.  The doctor was a very kind and caring person and we told him how much we appreciated his coming in on the weekend to check my dadís eye.

 

So Saturday morning around 10:30 we hit the road heading for Texas.  I drove my dadís car and Mac drove the RV.  We arrived back in Livingston after dark and I think it was before 7:00.  We had stopped several times to either eat or stretch our legs. 

 

On Sunday morning I took my mom to the laundry and we both washed clothes.  Then Mac and I got everything ready and hit the road again right after lunch.  I wish we could have stayed longer but we need to get on the road and get back to Tampa.  So we hit the road and drove and drove.  We spent the night at the Wal-Mart in Baton Rouge LA. 

 

The weather has still been cold to us and we are looking forward to getting back to Florida where itís warmer.  On Monday we continued driving and we stopped in Pensacola to pick up our mail.  Then we drove on to Wal-Mart in Marietta Florida and spent the night.  Itís still cold to us!  What is going on, this is Florida!  Itís not supposed to be this cold this early!  On Tuesday we continued driving and we stopped at the Camping World Store in north Tampa.  We arrived back to MacDill AFB by 6:00 Tuesday evening.  It was a little chilly but much warmer than where weíd been earlier in the day.  We are so glad to finally be sitting still for a few days.  We really donít like just driving and driving.  Weíd rather drive less and see more but we need to be in Tampa and get things done.

 

On Wednesday November 23 I was so tired that I just rested all day.  Mac took our kitty K.C. to the vet and heís doing great.  Mac also got a 6 months supply of K.C.ís medicine. 

 

Thursday, November 24:  Happy Thanksgiving!  We spent the day visiting family.  The baby is too cute!  We are very thankful for all the blessings that we have had this year.  The weather is warm again!  We spent the day in shorts, t-shirt, and flip flops.  We are especially thankful for that. 

 

Friday, November 25th:

 

This is the biggest shopping day of the year so of course I went shopping!  But I went to thrift stores instead of department stores.  Iím always on the look-out for great bargains and several of the thrift stores had a 50% off sale going.  So I left home a little after 8 and came back home before 5.  I shopped till I dropped.  I only took $40 with me and came back with bags and bags of goodies.  I found cute baby clothes for that growing baby, and all of the clothes were in great shape, almost new.  I found several books of course!  I must keep up the supply of books to read.  I found several like new T-shirts for us and more clothing for my parents too!  Mac was amazed how much I got for less than $40. 

 

As Iíve mentioned before the Tampa, St. Pete and surrounding area has many thrift stores.  There are always great buys to be found.  Long ago, like 25 years ago, someone I knew said that they wouldnít shop in a thrift store because you didnít know where the stuff came from, that the clothes could have lice or germs on them; so for years I didnít shop at thrift stores.  But when we moved to Tampa I met someone who shopped at thrift stores and all her stuff was so nice that I decided to check out the thrift stores and see what they had.  I couldnít believe how much great stuff there was at the stores!  Most of the stores are nice and clean, there are a few exceptions of course but most are very nice.  So now Iím hooked.  Every place that we have traveled to I check out the thrift stores.  Why should I pay designer or department store prices?  I can eventually find the greatest stuff for a very low price.  The money I save can go to keeping us on the road and seeing new places.

 

If youíre on a budget, or just love to find good bargains, check out the thrift stores.  If the area you are in doesnít have any or if there are a few but not that great then check them out on your travels.  I do a Yahoo search for each new place we visit to see if there are any around and where they are located.  Sometimes the thrift store is gone or moved so the address may not be updated yet in Yahoo. 

 

In the evening we just relaxed outside and enjoyed the great weather.  We didnít go to the beach and watch the sun set because my leg was hurting from a day of shopping.  I can hardly wait to get it replaced!

 

In all the excitement back in October with the baby being born I forgot to mention that Mac and I had our eyes examined.  Mac needed new glasses and he also needed reading glasses.  My glasses were fine so I didnít need any new ones, I only use my glasses to drive in the dark or if itís hard to see while driving.  We had both been using over the counter reading glasses to read with previous to this examination.  The doctor said that I should have prescription reading glasses because I have a stigmatism and the over the counter glasses donít help that; so since they were so inexpensive, I got some prescription reading glasses and they are better than my over the counter ones.  Mac got a pair of ďregularĒ glasses to see with and a set of prescription reading glasses.  He says that heís thinking of bifocals for the next set.  I didnít like bifocals when I had a pair, they were a royal pain to try and adjust to and I never did adjust.  I wound up just using them to drive at night with and the next year got a pair of glasses to drive with and started using over the counter reading glasses to read with. 

 

Saturday, November 26:

 

Before I left to go take care of my dad I had started cleaning the RV really good.  When we had the mouse in the house I had cleaned the kitchen by taking every thing out of the shelves, wiping shelves, rewashing dishes, etc.  It was like spring cleaning, and I realized that it would be a good idea to do that to the whole RV. 

 

So today I started doing that.  Iím not going to rush it; Iím just going to take my time and clean it good.  So I cleaned out a few shelves and put some things in the donating bag since we havenít used these items.  I washed clothes also today and that always takes up almost 2 hours.  So when I was done with the laundry that was it for the day for me as far as cleaning.  My knee always hurts so much afterwards, I guess from all the standing, bending, lifting, etc. 

 

Later in the day we went to the beach and walked along it.  It was so relaxing.  It is wonderful to walk on the beach and watch the birds.  We just took our time and walked around the beach enjoying the breeze blowing, the birds singing, children laughing, it was great.  We sat on the bench and watched the sun set, it was awesome!  We are so grateful and blessed that we are able to have this lifestyle.  We wouldnít go back for anything.

 

Sunday, November 27:

 

Today I cleaned some more on the RV and Mac helped by cleaning the cushions on the dinette, the carpet and the driverís chair.  We are working hard at getting this thing spiffed up. 

 

Around lunchtime we went to visit our daughter and I helped her out by doing some cleaning.  She says that she always saves me some dirty dishes to wash!  But after that I scrubbed her bathroom for her.  She has a lot to do now with the baby so I was glad to help out.  Mac hung up some pictures that sheíd been wanting hung.  We had a good visit while working and then it was time to go home.

 

When we got back to the RV Park we headed right down to the beach.  We had seen a cruise ship going out so we wanted to see it before it got too far out.  We arrived long before it got this far.  They have to go so slow when they are leaving to not create a big wake.  So we got to see the big cruise ship as it was going out towards the gulf.  We can see the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in the distance and thatís where the ship is headed. 

 

It was another beautiful evening on the beach.  We enjoyed it so much.  A pelican flew out about 50 yards from us and landed on a channel marker post.  With the sun setting behind him in beautiful shades of red it was a picture perfect moment.  Too bad we didnít bring the camera, but it is stored in my memory and I can see it any time I want.

 

One of the Harry Potter movies was on HBO tonight but nothing could top our evening on the beach so we decided that we would rather enjoy the quiet this evening and didnít turn on the TV. 

 

This has been a great weekend and we are starting to feel like we are back to our ďnormalĒ lives.  We are thankful that we could help my parents and that the RV repair work has been completed.  But we are so happy to be back to our lives.  We can get some work done on the business side of life and take the breaks during the day to stop and smell the roses along the way.  We are ready to begin the adventure again.

 

Monday, November 28:

 

Today we went to get 3 parts of my pre-op testing done.  I have an appointment on the 8th to get an EKG and see the doctor for a surgery clearance.  Itís getting closer now to time to have my knee replaced.  The reality is starting to set in.  Iím a little anxious about it of course; but Iím really looking forward to being able to walk without pain.  I donít care about being able to squat or how much flexibility my knee may or may not have.  I just want to be able to walk without pain.  I donít want to have to decide if going shopping is worth the pain that Iíll have afterwards from the stress I put on the knee.  I donít want to have to ride in the electric carts when I go grocery shopping which I have to use now.  Thank God for modern medicine where knee replacement is an option.

 

After we finished at the doctorís office we dropped off some donations to the Salvation Army.  Then we went to storage to get out our BIG suitcase for our trip to Las Vegas on Thursday.  While we were there we went through some of the stuff in storage and brought some stuff home with us.  We brought home a few of the Christmas decorations that we kept and didnít give to the children.  Mac brought home some office supplies that he had in storage.  We plan on going through every thing in storage and deciding on whether to keep or get rid off some time while we are here in Tampa.  Iíd love it if we didnít have to have a storage unit, it would save a lot of money thatís for sure.

 

Afterwards, we headed towards home and stopped at a Chinese buffet for lunch.  It started raining after we got back home.  Since we both were tired we took a nap to the sound of rain pattering on the roof.  I love going to sleep to the sound of rain!  It just makes you feel warm and cozy, knowing that you are safe from the cold rain. 

 

Itís rained most of the afternoon and evening so no beach for us this evening.  But there are many things to do.  Weíve enjoyed using our computers this evening.  Iím updating the blog and visiting various websites and Mac is playing poker right now, earlier he was on different RV forums, which he enjoys a lot.  So itís been a nice day today.

November Final Updates

Tuesday, November 29:

Today I did ďspring cleaningĒ in the bedroom. I took everything out of the cabinets and closets and vacuumed them and wiped them down with Lysol. I also changed around the closets again. I had changed them back in November 2004 and now I wanted to give us a little more closet space for hanging clothes. So the big closet at the foot of the bed is back to being a closet and the closets on each side of the bed are being used now for storing the folded clothing. I also want to get some better hangers than the ones weíd bought last November. I want to get the nice thick plastic ones for our clothes, these metal ones we bought just donít hold up very well.

After finishing the closets and cabinets I also wiped down the walls, vacuumed the carpet, wiped the screens, etc. The only cleaning left to do in the bedroom now is under the bed. Iíd like to take everything out and clean under there too, but I donít know if Iíll get it done before my surgery. I probably wonít have time with everything that we have planned to do before then.

I tried on all my clothes that had been hanging in the closet. Iíve only worn a few of the clothes since we moved into the RV and wanted to verify that everything still fit. Everything still fit! I havenít gained any weight this first year in the RV. I thought I might gain weight with my knee getting worse and not walking as much as I had to do at work but I didnít. Yea! So, after verifying that my clothes still fit, I went through them and decided on donating a lot of them. If I havenít worn them in one year then I probably wonít in the future. I kept only a few of my nicer clothes just in case we ever decide to eat in a fancy restaurant or need to dress up for something. Iím hoping that Iíll be able to donate my entire current wardrobe in 2006 and get to buy new clothes. After I recover from my knee replacement Iím hoping that Iíll lose weight because Iíll be able to walk more and just be more active from the lack of pain.

I also washed clothes today; there werenít too many to do because Iíd just done them the other day but I needed to wash all the bedding since I cleaned the bedroom. So that took a couple of hours.

So after I got all that done that was it for me; I was too pooped to do much else the rest of the day. Iíll be glad to be done with my knee so that I will be able to do more and not have to stop because of the pain.

Wednesday, November 30:

Today we packed our suitcase for our Vegas trip in the morning. Iím so excited about getting to go to Vegas!  In the afternoon Mac took the kitty to the vetís office for boarding while we are gone. We had thought about just leaving the cat in the RV with plenty of food and water for him but we decided to board him since he does need to take a pill every day. The rest of the day I miss my kitty; itís amazing how much a pet contributes to our life. He talks to me, follows me around, lets me know when itís time to stop what Iím doing and pet him. He tells me to stop working and now is the time to stop, that there must be petting done now! He keeps my priorities straight.

So today was mostly taken up with getting everything done for our trip. We packed and double-checked that we were taking everything needed. I cleaned up around the RV so that it would be nice for our return home.

That was it for the day. The rest of the day was spent goofing off watching TV. surfing the web, visiting friends around the park, etc.

End of Month Budget Update

 

We've been hooked up all month, so our average is going up.  By the end of the year it will be $9.57 a night.

 

Camping costs since Jan 1, 2005

 

Avg $ per Nite

# Dry

# Elect

# FHU

# Free

%Dry

% Free

$9.09

184

17

134

113

55%

34%

 

Fuel Costs

 

Since the engine rebuild we've driven 2000 miles with an average of 7.75 MPG not towing the car.  The last three tanks have been 7.9 8.1 and 7.9.  I think 8 MPG overall would be GREAT!

 

Continue to December

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